Gigathlon 2013, epilogue

A lot more than just six days of exercising had gone into our Gigathlon experience. From deciding to participate to kick-off meetings, equipment purchases, training weekends, preparatory races and organisational challenges, there was a bit of everything.

Cold, hard numbers

But of course at the heart of it was running, swimming, inline skating, road biking and mountain biking. And some more sports. From when we signed up in November 2012 until we started the race in July 2013, I did exactly 295 hours, 44 minutes and 34 seconds of training:

  • 1368 km running (including 1 marathon with preparation)
  • 1274 km cycling (lots off-road, hence the small number!)
  • 20 hours 11 minutes of strength training
  • 135 km of swimming
  • 13 km of walking (in a “training setting”, that is)
  • 17 minutes of transitions
  • 279 km of cross country skiing
  • 89 km of inline skating
  • 18 km of snowshoeing

resulting in 3176 km overall, with 48’400 m elevation.

Kick-off and final celebration

Quite apart from all the sweating, the six of us often met for “planning”, as we called having dinner and chatting about Gigathlon. In November, Markus organised an awesome kick-off event, complete with customised Gigathlon cake:

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And after all was said and done, Gabriela hosted a review and “thank you, supporters” dinner:

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So yes, there were occasions where we didn’t wear spandex.

Gearing up

Gigathlon is a “battle of material”. Just to be able to toe the start line, a lot of equipment has to be around. Apart from small stuff such as a new wetsuit, I had to get two major pieces of equipment: new inline skates and a mountain bike.

I got the inline skates in March 2013 and ended up with fancy Powerslide R4:

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And after a lot of deliberation, I went with a cross-country full suspension mountain bike, the Specialized Epic 29er, in May 2013.

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Training and racing weekends

It felt like every race and weekend of training was just preparing for Gigathlon, and there was a bunch of it (all in 2013, links to race reports):

January 12: Dietiker Neujahrslauf kicked off the racing season.

January 19/20: Markus organised a snow sports weekend in Filisur. There was some cross-country skiing:

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And an epic snowshoeing tour, blessed by cozy mountain weather:

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March 2: I immersed myself in Norwegian culture and tried classic style cross-country skiing at Svanstulrennet.

March 10: Trying to reap the benefits of frequent training in Norway, I participated in the Engadin Skimarathon.

March 23: A few weeks before Boston, I raced the 10 km Swiss Championships in Uster.

April 15: Boston Marathon! (Hi Jen & Joel!)

April 19-28: I recovered from Boston and did nothing, but the rest of the Triple Couple project was at the ASVZ triathlon camp in Giverola, Spain.

May 4: SOLA relay race with TV Oerlikon, where I got to do my “favourite” leg again!

May 10-12: ASVZ tri weekend Ticino with half of the TriCo people:

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May 18: GP Bern to kick off a three day TriCo sports weekend, including

May 19/20: training weekend in Biel. We had a look at the Biennathlon skating course and tested the MTB course of Gigathlon’s day six with an epic eight hour tour:

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Followed by missing a train due to the pizza guy being too slow, but then again, waiting for the next train was awesome due to said pizza.

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The following day, we checked out the Biennathlon MTB course.

June 2: Reaping the benefits from all the course reconnaissance, we raced Biennathlon in great weather – just after the region had been hit by serious rainfalls and the whole starting area had to be moved.

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June 8: To get a taste of multi day racing, we did Zumiker Lauf on Saturday, followed by

June 9: Thurathlon, which was pretty much like one day of Gigathlon.

June 15/16: More MTB course reconnaissance! We had a look at the course of day four (around Stanserhorn):

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We enjoyed great views from our accommodation (pictured: Grosser and Kleiner Mythen, as well as Kleiner Benjamin):

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There was a short run after the first day of mountain biking:

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And all was topped off by sleeping in hay, wich was surprisingly comfortable!

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On the second day, we did the MTB course of day three, including some saddle adjustments:

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And finally, all came together in the Gigathlon week in July, where we effectively crossed Switzerland from east to west:

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Scheduling woes

At one point, we had to determine who would do what during Gigathlon. Deliberations started as early as at the kick-off meeting:

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And more plans were hatched during the snow sports weekend:

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It wasn’t simple. There were boundary conditions given by the organisers such as “the person doing the inline leg on day five must also swim” or “road bike and inline or inline and MTB on day three must be done by the same person”. Then there were wishes, as in “I really want do die while riding over Susten Pass” or “I am very slow running uphill, give me the mountain stage of day one”. And finally, every day should be as balanced as possible, just like the overall load of the week.

Obviously, I wrote a Matlab script to generate all valid combinations and then sort them by total estimated difference in racing time per day:

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The biggest source of uncertainty were the estimates of how long each leg would take us, but thanks to an elaborate spreadsheet prepared by running and football data guru Roger Kaufmann, we had something to work with and base our decisions on some data.

Once the race drew closer, the whole supporter organisation wanted to be set up. Markus created a fancy seven page general plan with everything spelled out:

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This and a daily coordination meeting in the evenings led to a completely problem free race week.

After the race, it was time to geek out over the generated data. Who placed where, in which percentile of the field, what was the quota of women racing the leg, and so on.

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And finally, a comparison of what we estimated our total times would be with what they actually were:

The “Ist” columns shows the time actually required, and “Soll” has our estimates. I’d say, 28 and 10 minutes off over almost thirty hours for a week was pretty close!

This concludes what I wanted to write about Gigathlon last year. There are still a few race reports to be written, but that was the big one!

Gigathlon 2013, day 6

We had made it to the last day! Even though day number five had been less exhausting than others, the week started taking its toll. This is Markus and me looking super fresh during breakfast:

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Markus would go on to do all of the sixth day alone, just like the day before. I was scheduled to do inline skating, swimming and road biking.

Inline skating: 42 km, 50 m elevation

The day’s stage started in Lyss, quite a bit away from Bern. We had to take a train to get to the inline start. While in that train, we checked the overall standings to see if much could change during the day. Our neighbours were “Team Mizuno” five minutes ahead of us on 32nd place and “Die Nimmersattä” (“The Insatiables”) less than one minute behind us on 34th place. 31st was more than 15 minutes ahead, and 35th more than 30 behind.

Curiously enough, a guy sitting next to us outed himself as 50% of the “Nimmersattä” team, so the enemy had a face now. Sadly, I didn’t see much of that face for the rest of the day.

The course was marathon distance, winding its way to Neuchâtel where I would have the unbeatable pleasure of changing from inline skating into my wetsuit.

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A few minutes before the start, I was frantically looking for a bathroom to avoid being uncomfortable for all of the skating, but there was none to be found, so I ended up asking a nearby factory (or whatever that was) if I could use their bathroom.

I could, and minutes later, we were off! I missed any of the faster groups to draft off, and it felt like everybody around me was going slow, so for a while I was passing a lot of people and skating on my own. Eventually, a little group followed me and we started taking turns. All the while, the scenery was very nice:

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Our group stuck together for more than half of the distance. Here we are crossing a bridge with a not-so-nice grate:

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After a while, my lack of training for this discipline caught up with me in the shape of not being able to hold a nice tuck and some pretty annoying lower back pain. I got dropped from the group and caught up again a few times, but eventually I had to let them go.

Little groups started passing me and I tried to hang on, but not with much success. It wasn’t until a really, really big group passed me (think several dozen in one chaotic line) that I could latch on. Once in the big group, all I had to do was try and not have an accident – the skating took care of itself with no wind from the front and people pushing from the back when too much speed was lost.

The average level of technical skills in the group was not great, but it was the best I could get, so I had nothing to complain about.

About five kilometres from the finish, a special treat was waiting for us: a two kilometre running interlude! Everybody had to bring along shoes for the occasion. First we had to take off the inline skates:

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And then carry them along for the running bit:

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And afterwards put them on again. I actually didn’t mind as everything was hurting from skating. After the running break, the large group was split up and everybody just finished on their own.

After about 110 minutes, I arrived at the transition zone in Neuchâtel and was led to our supporters. Despite many helpful hands, putting on the wetsuit was a struggle and the whole transition took almost fourteen minutes (including the rather long jog to the waterfront). Next time I’ll bring the talcum powder!

I didn’t know it then, but at this stage I’d already lost eight minutes on the “Nimmersattä” team, so they’d passed us – but other teams were slower, so we were still in 33rd.

Swim: 3 km

The swim was one big counterclockwise loop:

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The water temperature was pleasant and I felt good, and in a (for me) respectable time, I was back on shore.

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Factoring in my slow transition, though, my time was slow enough to let yet another team get in front of us, so we were now sitting in 34th.

I handed over to Andrea for the week’s monster mountain bike stage.

Mountain bike: 65 km, 1200 m elevation

We had done the course as part of one of our training weekends, and despite the undeniable beauty of the landscape (the course went past the Creux du Van), I didn’t protest when Andrea wanted to do that leg.

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I remember some of the climbs being steep enough to make me think that I should maybe better walk, but long enough to make me think that walking maybe isn’t smart either.

But as I said, somebody else suffered!

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After a short train ride, I arrived in Chamblon to wait for my road bike finale.

Road bike: 70 km, 900 m elevation

The athletes were quite far apart from each other at this stage of the day, so when I got to start my leg, I was more or less alone. The course would start flat for about ten kilometres, then climb for about twenty kilometres and then descend for the rest until Lausanne.

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Here I am leaving the transition zone:

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I started with the mindset that it’d be a solo effort. I apparently also thought that it would be a sprint, because I went out way too hard. One guy was drafting off me, but once my body realised that there was no way it could go this hard for much longer, he passed me and told me to hang on.

I gladly accepted, and we stayed together for most of the climb. Shortly after the climb started, we happened upon a distressed team rider with her bike turned over, trying to fix something. We both had a look and decided that we couldn’t really help as the rear shifting cable didn’t have enough tension to shift any gears. I left her my multitool and best wishes, then we continued.

I lost my companion after a while (or he lost me), but eventually I reached the top of the climb. Newly motivated, I passed two team riders early on during the descent, and stayed together until the end of the leg, taking turns at the front and motivating each other.

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Without them, it would have been much harder and less fun, so I was really glad they were around. It was also after the mediocre skating, the slow transition and the typical (less than impressive) swim, by far my best deed of the day. We were now in 34th overall, and (spoiler alert) would stay there until the end.

Run: 16 km, 50 m elevation

I handed off to Andrea, and she started her loop through Lausanne, along the lake, past the transition zone and toward the finish.

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I was allowed to accompany her on my bike from the transition zone on, so after a while I went to the lake and waited.

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While waiting, the girl with the problematic bike happened to be nearby. She recognised me, handed me back the tool and told me that she’d been able to finish the bike leg. I was happy my tool had been put to good use, and also that I had it back.

The last few kilometres were harder for Andrea than for me as she had to run, but I had the wrong cleats for the bike I used and couldn’t clip in, so that was also a challenge. Not a big one, to be clear.

Minutes later, after more than 58 hours of running, swimming, skating and cycling, we did it! We finished the six days Gigathlon of 2013.

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The fries afterwards tasted awesome, and I felt like just staying there forever and see all the happy finishers stumble around.

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Of course we didn’t stay forever, so after a while we gathered our stuff and tried to find the showers. We all had wisely signed up for the extra night on the camping ground as driving home now would neither have been smart nor fun.

As mentioned, we ended up 34th out of 99 teams who finished. Kaspar and Gabriela from TriCo Barrito defended their top ten placement and finished 7th, while TriCo Muntanella was not in the overall rankings due to that pesky broken rib. Markus had done the last two days on his own, and had he been ranked with the two day single men for days five and six, he would have cracked the top five!

I’ll write one more post with a bit more statistics and behind the scenes stuff, but other than that, that was it, the highlight of my 2013 and endurance sports “career” until then!

Day six, stats (links to result lists)

  • Overall time: 58:08:59, 34/99
  • Day split: 10:45:34, 47/99
  • Skate 42 km: 1:48:46 (23.2 km/h), 54/106
  • Swim 3 km: 1:24:08 (2:48 min/100 m), 85/104
  • MTB 65 km: 4:01:25 (16.2 km/h), 64/104
  • Road bike 70 km: 2:08:40 (32.6 km/h), 21/106
  • Run 16 km: 1:22:35 (5:10/km), 36/106

Gigathlon 2013, day 5

Day five was there to give us a little break. The distances were short, the start was relatively late and the weather was awesome. Everything would take place in and around Bern and the logistics were set up such that no cars were needed (or allowed) the whole day.

For me, it would be a bike day with the opening road bike leg, then a break while Andrea would do skating and swimming, then the mountain bike leg for me and then relaxing while Andrea would do the run.

Road bike: 43 km, 650 m elevation

The road bike course was never quite flat with two major climbs, one starting about five kilometres in, the other one roughly in the middle of the course.

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Even though the start was single seed, drafting was allowed. The order of starting was the reverse ranking and teams had gone first, so my day began only at 10:30 am. We were sent off in ten second intervals, so groups formed quickly.

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The reverse start order meant that people in front of me tended to be slower, while the ones starting later were faster. For most of the time, I was in a group, but the climbs broke those up quite efficiently.

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Toward the end, the really fast people rode past – so fast in fact that it was impossible for me to hang on.

After a bit more than 80 minutes, I arrived at the transition zone at Marzili, which was extremely busy at the time: cyclists arriving, inline skaters leaving, and later also the switch from mountain bike to running would take place there.

Inline skating: 13 km, 100 m elevation

Up next was a mandatory combination: the inline skater also had to do the swim. From Marzili, the course went to the airport at Bern-Belp:

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Swim: 6 km

There, the athletes had to do the afwul switch into the wetsuit and got to enjoy six kilometres of swimming in the Aare river.

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There had been again some doubts about the water temperature before we started, but I heard that it wasn’t too bad.

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Mountain bike: 27 km, 800 m elevation

After the swim, it was my turn to do the mountain bike leg, which took me to Bern’s “local mountains”.

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The climbs were hefty and some descents technical,  and to my shame I took a wrong turn toward the end.

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A rather fast descent switched into a very steep climb, so steep that almost everybody was walking. Finally, at the top of the unrideable section, I hopped on the saddle again and followed everybody else – which turned out to be a slight shortcut. I only realised that when Kaspar passed me shortly before the finish for the second time during the bike leg, and as I had never passed him, I must have taken this shortcut.

To quantify the damage, I tried to find other people’s GPS tracks from the day. I did the red course, and the two green ones are examples of people who did it right:

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So yes, that’s about one kilometres of cheating. When trying to find correct GPS tracks, I found a lot of people who had taken the shortcut as well (like everybody around me at the time), so obviously the course marking was not great, but then again, it’s always the athlete’s responsibility to know the course. Let’s just say that this didn’t influence the overall ranking.

Run: 9 km, 100 m elevation

The run course followed the Aare river and ended on the Bundesplatz, the large square in front of the Federal Palace.

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We didn’t have to wait long before Andrea arrived:

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She even got to do a short interview and explained how our team name “Agglo-Dugongs” came to be. And what a dugong is.

On our way back to the camp, a photographer snatched a picture of some of our supporters:

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The fifth day lived up to its promise of being not as tough as the other days. In just a bit over five hours, we finished on the 29th place for the day and kept our 33rd place in the overall rankings. Barrito finished 11th for the day and were in 7th overall, while Muntanella was not in the overall rankings anymore, due to the earlier mentioned broken rib. Markus from TriCo Muntanella competed as a single man for the day, non-competitive as in “wouldn’t show up in overall rankings”, but very competitive in reality, faster than us and most single men for the day!

One more stage to go.

Day five, stats (links to result lists)

  • Overall time: 47:23:25, 33/102
  • Day split: 5:03:19, 29/102
  • Road bike 43 km: 1:23:37 (30.9 km/h), 31/108
  • Skate 13 km: 0:36:35 (21.3 km/h), 64/108
  • Swim 6 km: 0:39:42 (0:40 min/100 m), 58/108
  • MTB 27 km: 1:38:54 (16.4 km/h), 27/107
  • Run 9 km: 0:44:31 (4:57/km), 41/108

Gigathlon 2013, day 4

Day four was a relocation stage: from Ennetbürgen, we’d move to Bern. The swim and mountain bike would be in the Ennetbürgen region, the road bike would be used to get to Bern, and once arrived there, an out-and back inline/running combo would round off the day.

While not as brutal as the third day, this certainly was not an easy one, either. We split it up as follows: Andrea would swim and do the mountain bike part, I’d do the road bike to Bern, Andrea would skate to Burgdorf and I’d run back to Bern.

This meant that I got to enjoy a few more precious minutes of sleep than others:

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Swim: 3 km

The swim was special in that the athletes boarded a ship, which took them to the swim start, and from there they’d swim to Stansstad.

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I was a good supporter and got up in time to watch the transition from swim to MTB:

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I also used the short ride from Ennetbürgen to Stansstad and back to warm up a little for my first road bike outing of the week.

Mountain bike: 43 km, 1000 m elevation

The mountain bike course circumnavigated Stanserhorn:

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We had done the course on one of our weekends, so I knew its distinctive feature, an almost 1000 m relentless climb, firsthand. This must have been taken on the second half of the course, on the downhill part:

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I enjoyed a rather quiet morning in the meantime. Eventually, Andrea returned and I was off for the road bike stage.

Road bike: 114 km, 1550 m elevation

The course was more or less straight to Bern:

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Somehow, the organisers snuck in a considerable amount of elevation, most of which on the climb to Glaubenberg. Everything afterwards was just hills, whereas Glaubenberg felt like a proper mountain.

For most of the ascent, I rode with this guy who told me that this week was his honeymoon:

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The climb seemed to be infinitely long, and I distinctly remember how happy I was when some guy offered me some flat coke and told me it would be just a few more turns to the top. Nothing worse than somebody telling you you’re almost there, only for you to realise shortly afterwards that you’re not almost there – but this guy spoke the truth.

I’m pretty sure my efforts pale compared to what this guy did to get to the top:

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The fifteen kilometres after the highest point were all downhill, and while I’m not a great descender, I did manage to pass a few people. Back in the flat part, I put my head down and worked hard for a few minutes before looking around to see if honeymoon guy was still around. To my big surprise, there was a whole string of single men drafting – more or less everybody I passed during the downhill.

This was great news, because riding in a group is so much easier (and faster) than going solo. The group turned out to be pretty awesome with everybody doing their turns at the front. We reeled in a lot of athletes and small groups; the problem was only when catching up with bigger groups, as this tended to split up the bunch. After a particularly chaotic situation at an aid station, I finally lost the fastest people of the group and continued with a somewhat less motivated bunch.

Bern was near by now, and thanks to a (for me) aggressively ridden downhill section, I managed to catch up with the other guys again. I was even “complimented” on my dangerous descending, to which I thought that a) it wasn’t dangerous and b) the guy wasn’t obliged to follow me. Anyway, we were close to the finish, and I had spent most of the time in the fast group, leading to an okay time: a bit under four hours, almost a 30 km/h average and a top 30% ranking.

Time was neutralised upon arrival due to the logistics: Andrea wasn’t supposed to start until I was on the train to Burgdorf to make sure she wouldn’t be there before I was. I enjoyed a little bit of down time before leaving for Burgdorf:

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Inline skating: 25 km, 100 m elevation

The inline course was quite exposed to wind, so being able to draft would come in handy.

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The inline skaters could start whenever they wanted within the neutralisation time window; for the first, still neutralised part through Bern they were escorted, and then the timing started. This meant they would usually organise in small groups to start together:

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But the groups didn’t always stay together, resulting in some hard work in this case:

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Run: 24 km, 450 m elevation

I hung out in Burgdorf in the meantime. The transition zone was close to where I had gone to non-commissioned officer school many years ago, but I did not get to see the actual barracks.

It was hot by now, and when Andrea arrived, I was glad to get into the forest for a while.

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The course was very hilly, but pretty and quiet, mostly through forest and on small gravel paths. The field was strung out, so I didn’t get to see a lot of competitors.

The biggest climb of the course came shortly after the halfway point, steep enough to make me almost walk, but thankfully that was for just about one kilometre.

Shortly before Bern, the course went through the “House of Sports”, the HQ of Swiss Olympic, the (then) organisers of Gigathlon. And “through” is to be taken literally here; when the first athlete arrived, even the lead moto went into the building:

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By the time I was there, though, there were no more cheering employees in the hallways. Still, it was fun to run through an office building as part of the race course. This was taken just after leaving the house:

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From Ittigen, it was about four more kilometres to the finish on Bern’s Allmend. This was taken after finishing, including two of our awesome support crew:

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The camp was already set up when I arrived. As always, the tent layout was carefully crafted:

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Not far to go now! The next day would be a “City Gigathlon” stage, all in and around Bern, with relatively short distances. Almost a recovery day! And after that, there was only one more day to go.

This evening, a lot of new people arrived, namely all those set to do the last two days of the race, in a separate category.

We finished the day as the 38th couple, dropping one place in the overall rankings to 33rd.

Day four, stats (links to result lists)

  • Overall time: 42:20:06, 33/102
  • Day split: 11:16:53, 38/102
  • Swim 3 km: 1:02:26 (2:05/100 m), 66/107
  • MTB 43 km: 2:53:59 (14.8 km/h), 74/107
  • Road bike 114 km: 3:54:12 (29.2 km/h), 31/106
  • Skate 25 km: 1:17:19 (19.4 km/h), 74/105
  • Run 24 km: 2:08:57 (5:22/km), 19/103

Gigathlon 2013, day 3

Day three was supposed to be the toughest of the whole race, featuring a grueling 123 km / 2650 m elevation bike leg over Susten pass, and a mountain bike and run leg that were no jokes, either. Luckily, Andrea really wanted to do Susten, so I let her!

Unfortunately, this meant that my day would start very early with getting to the lake and doing some swimming. Clearly I was thrilled at the prospect of getting wet while trying to put on my suit at 5:00 am:

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Swim: 1.5 km

Because it was such a long day, the couple and single athletes only had to do one swim lap, while the teams got to do two.

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Gigathlon starts are a fine thing: there is no gun going off, but instead the Gigathlon song is played, and when it’s finished, the day begins. Combined with a pretty sunrise, this made for a great ambiance:

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The camp didn’t look shabby at the time, either:

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Of course I didn’t get to see much of that, as I was swimming. But breathing to my left was prettier than to my right! The swim went fine, and while “72th out of 107” doesn’t look great, it was much, much better than many of my triathlon swims, which often look more like “106 out of 107”, so my 34 and something minutes were a win in my book.

Because of the replacement timing chip, which apparently wasn’t yet properly registered, the announcer couldn’t tell the waiting athletes my team name, but only “replacement chip”, so Andrea had no way of knowing I’d finished. (Also, add in my surprisingly “fast” time!)

That wasn’t a problem, though, I just went into the transition zone to find her after a few seconds. Surprisingly, she said something like “I’m done” and “devastated” and “can’t anymore” before taking off. The riddle would be solved only at the end of the day: when preparing her bike, she blew a tire, and after replacing it, dropped the skewer and had it fall apart into many pieces, including these weird little springs that don’t seem to make any sense. Time was running out, but she managed to be at transition on time, and if she hadn’t told me, I would never have known that there had been a problem.

Road bike: 123 km, 2650 m elevation

The real problem was ahead of her: 123 km with lots of climbing!

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The elevation profile doesn’t do the course justice, but notice the highest point at more than 2000 m a.s.l.:

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This meant that there was a lot of time for me. With one of our supporters, I took the extra train to Erstfeld, where the inline skating leg would start:

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All the while Andrea was doing this:

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Even though I didn’t need it there, I brought along my mountain bike to make sure the new collar would fit. The shop indeed carried the part, and I opted for the quick release version, keeping me from shearing off any more screws:

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The supporter took my bike back to Flüelen, where I’d transition from inline skates to MTB, and I went to the transition zone and waited. It took Andrea exactly five hours to arrive, good for the top 40% on the stage and second fastest time of all female couple athletes!

Inline skating: 18 km, 50 m elevation

I started my first inline skating leg of the week. I hadn’t prepared a lot for inline skating, but my new semi-speed skates would do their part, or so I hoped. The course was going up to the end of Lake Lucerne, followed the west shore a bit, and after a U-turn led to Flüelen:

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It went fairly well, but it proved to be hard to stay in a decent aero position. That’s probably where some more training would have come in handy. Until the turnaround point, I got passed by a few people that were too fast to follow and passed a few myself, but was mostly working on my own:

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After the turnaround, I found a group of three at a nice pace and stayed with them until the end, taking turns in drafting and leading. There was one tricky passage up a short and slippery ramp, but volunteers pushed us uphill.

This leg surprisingly turned out to be the best of my whole six days, placing in the fastest 17% – but at just 45 minutes, that didn’t make much of a difference. But a good performance in a day going well so far wouldn’t hurt, either!

Mountain bike: 37 km, 1400 m elevation

The transition was a whirlwind of being sat down on a chair, have many hands pull off various items of equipment, shove bananas and sports drink in my face, put on my bike shoes and send me off after what felt like a few seconds. I even forgot to take off the bib number, which I wouldn’t need on the bike, but I think I realised it only after biking, so it wasn’t much of a bother.

The MTB leg looked like this:

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The part along the lake was naturally flat. After this, it was almost 15 kilometres of steady climbing on asphalt and later gravel roads, followed by another 15 kilometres downhill to Brunnen, where time would be neutralised.

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We had done almost exactly this course during one of our training weekends, so I knew what to expect. The climb was long and brutal, but I found a bunch of people with whom I stayed for most of it, chatting at times (and just breathing loudly at others). This was taken about two thirds up the climb:

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I remember when doing the course during our training weekend, some passages seemed almost impossible to ride, but the race course turned out to skip these places.

The downhill part was very fast at first and not very technical; the last part was a bit trickier. I felt great during all of it, not giving up too much time to the specialists, and I look back to this MTB leg as one of the greatest racing experiences of the week. The top 20% placement was a welcome addition to the good feeling.

Once back in Flüelen, the clock was stopped as the runner first had to cross the lake on a ferry, leading to one of the few opportunities of the week where the teams actually had some time during the day.

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Shortly after this was taken, Andrea left for the ferry and I had some down time, well spent by eating all I could get my hands on. After a while, we took the train to where our cars were and headed back to the camp in Ennetbürgen.

Run: 23 km, 750 m elevation

The run course started at the historically significant Rütli and worked its way along the lake, accumulating quite some elevation metres along the way.

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I didn’t see any of the course, but this is what it looked like while being run:

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We were at the finish line ahead of any of the TriCo athletes doing the run, so we could duly welcome them all. Kaspar from the ultra fast Barrito team (2nd fastest run, 7th fastest day, 8th overall after the day) even got interviewed:

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After 2:19 hours of running and 11:21:24 of racing for the whole day, Andrea arrived and ended great day of racing. We placed 26th for the day and improved to 32nd in the overall standings. Barrito, as already mentioned, was comfortably in the top ten, and Muntanella, our third team, unfortunately dropped out of the overall rankings as the earlier mentioned broken rib proved to be too much of a challenge, so they hadn’t started the day.

Half the race was over, we were still alive and doing well, the toughest day was behind us – everything was looking up!

Day three, stats (links to result lists)

  • Overall time: 31:03:13, 32/104
  • Day split: 11:21:24, 26/104
  • Swim 1.5 km: 0:34:13 (2:17 min/100 m), 72/107
  • Bike 123 km: 5:00:24 (24.6 km/h), 40/107
  • Skate 18 km: 0:45:40 (23.6 km/h), 18/108
  • MTB 37 km: 2:42:09 (13.7 km/h), 21/107
  • Run 23 km: 2:18:58 (6:03 min/km), 28/107

Gigathlon 2013, day 2

The second day’s stage would take us away from Chur, first up north to Lake Zurich by means of running and cycling, then for a little swim and skating loop near the lake, and finally with the mountain bike all the way across to Lake Lucerne. I was to do the run, swim and mountain bike.

Run: 21 km, 250 m elevation

The run stage was roughly a half marathon from Chur to Landquart. Not totally flat, but no crazy hills (or mountains like on day one).

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I started off quite a bit slower than for a stand alone half marathon and ended up spending the first part in a group around the overall men’s single leader, Roger Fischlin. On the one hand, that was great as he was pacing nice and evenly; on the other hand, it was just a tiny bit slower than what I felt like running.

Unfortunately, the group was quite densely packed and we followed a narrow path along a small river, so passing and running off the front was easier said than done.

Eventually, after about five kilometres, the narrow part came to an end and I could run at what I thought was a better pace, just a bit faster. This coincided with the start of the longest uphill section of the course, and if I didn’t want to look like a fool, I’d have to stay ahead of the group despite my less than stellar climbing abilities.

I played some back and forth with Markus from the second TriCo couple, while Kaspar from the third couple was long gone by then, on his way to the fastest split of all single and couple participants (and the extra treat of being first to the transition zone).

For a while, I ran with a single man who had about the same pace as me:

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The little green pouch held the GPS tracker we were to carry with us at all times, which greatly simplified transition zone logistics as we always knew where everybody was on the course.

Meanwhile, our couple partners enjoyed the sun while waiting for us to get their cycling leg started:

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To my shame, most of the group around the single men’s leader passed me back again and I got confused by markers saying that I was one kilometre ahead of what my GPS was telling me, but in the end my GPS was right (and I had to do an “extra” kilometre).

I finished the run in about 1:39, probably more than ten minutes slower than an all-out effort would have been, but on the day it was good enough for the top 30% of the mixed couple field.

I sent Andrea on her way, and as the other two guys had arrived before me, we left quite soon to Lachen so we would be there in time before our cyclists arrived.

Road bike: 82 km, 350 m elevation

The bike stage was one of the faster ones with just one real hill in it, the Kerenzerberg:

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And, judging from the picture, it was an enjoyable ride.

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And a very fast one at that, placing in the top third of the field with a lot of men riding this leg.

Once arrived in Lachen, we moved our gear to the transition zone, so I had to take care of my swimming stuff and the mountain bike.

Now, to be able to transport our four bikes on the car, I had to push the seat post of my mountain bike all the way down. It was a bit a pain to have to adjust the seat all the time, but seemed to be the only option.

I was tightening the seat collar with my multitool, when suddenly something snapped: the screw holding the whole thing together had broken into two parts.

This is what the guilty part looks like:

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I wasn’t using crazy force or anything, but enough to break it. I started looking for the race’s emergency bike mechanics, and when I finally found them, they told me that a) they didn’t have replacement parts for that and b) I was already the third person with a snapped Specialized seat collar. Not too helpful!

Our amazing support staff told me to relax, and they’d try and source a new collar while I was waiting and swimming.

Swim: 3 km

It was a very warm day and waiting in the neoprene suit a rather hot affair, but thanks to the aforementioned GPS tracking kept to a minimum.

I was afraid of had quite some respect for this leg as my open water swims around this distance had not been many. The course was planned to be three kilometres:

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In the end, it was more like 2.8 kilometres, but I won’t complain.

The water temperature was great, my newish Huub Aerious 3:5 wetsuit awesome (except some neck rubbing) and orientation difficult. The buoys were far apart so I had to sight constantly, and once even asked a kayaker for directions to the next buoy.

There was not much traffic in the water, so I swam mostly alone. As always, the sight of the helping hands to pull me out of the lake was most welcome:

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My dad had come to see me, as this place was the closest the race got to where my parents live. When I met him after my swim, he was disappointed to have missed me come out of the water as he hadn’t recognised me in my wetsuit, black as almost everybody else’s.

Turns out that while he tried to figure out how to best shoot the exit, I was one of his “practice subjects” whith a result that turned out just great – hence the credit for the pictures in the gif above goes to my dad!

I handed off for the second longest inline skating leg of the race, at almost marathon distance.

Inline skating: 40 km, 50 m elevation

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Andrea was more lucky with drafting this time:

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While our supporters enjoyed a rare downtime in the transition zone:

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Speaking of supporters, they kept being awesome and had bought me a replacement collar while I was swimming.

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The bike dealer who had given it to them must have been less awesome, as it was the wrong diameter for my seat post. As I know now, the my seat post has a diameter of 30.9 mm, and the collar I had just wasn’t tight enough to hold it in place. Our supporters had brought the defective part to the guy and apparently he even measured it to make sure, and still managed to give them the wrong replacement.

I had to live with that, and the solution was for me to take Andrea’s bike. The frame is a bit smaller than mine, I tried to adjust the front and rear shocks to my weight, but it still was not my bike, but clearly better than no bike at all.

Mountain bike: 60 km, 1200 m elevation

The MTB course had been hyped as the “pièce de resistance” for the day, and that wasn’t promising too much. The timing would be stopped at Lake Lucerne for a ferry ride across the water and a final short bit on the other side.

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After leaving Lachen, there was a long and steady climb, not too technical, but still quite “breathtaking”. I got passed by Ralph Näf, multiple MTB world champion, racing for a relay team, and friendly enough to say “hi” while zooming up the hill like riding a motorcycle.

After about ten kilometres of climbing, a long part of the course was more or less flat or just slightly uphill, with great scenery to take in:

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Shortly before the Kleiner Mythen, a last hefty steep climb waited, and then it was all downhill to Schwyz and Lake Lucerne. I hadn’t ridden these specific trails before, but one of our longer training weekends had been in the region, so at least I recognised parts of the course.

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The technical part went alright, i.e., without any crashes, but again it was impressive to see just how fast technically strong riders can descend.

The last ten kilometres before the lake were easy asphalt and gravel roads, and once I’d reached the place where the ferry would leave, I got to enjoy a little break.

The crossing went by quickly with chatting and relaxing:

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Once on the other side, there were just a little more than seven kilometres to go, all flat on asphalt, to reach the Gigathlon camp on the airport near Ennetbürgen:

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Timing started only when crossing a mat, so groups could form and leave together. I got a nice, fast bunch with which I stayed almost until the end, when most of them decided to pass a slow bus on the sidewalk and zigzagging through traffic – not really worth it in my opinion, for a few seconds over the course of six days.

Here’s me finishing the day:

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I was very happy with the day, especially with the difficult downhill on a bike I wasn’t used to.

Other people wouldn’t share my happiness about the MTB course, as a lot of the relay teams and slower singles/couples got caught up in weather like this, turning the paths into mud slides:

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We were only affected in so far as that our packing and preparing for the next day was a bit more difficult, trying to find our stuff in the messy car without the option to place things outside temporarily.

There still was the unsolved problem of my broken seat collar, and I was scheduled to do the MTB part the next day, but our supporters had scouted out a bike dealer near one of the transition zones and he was supposed to carry the part.

I created a little moment of horror when I managed to misplace our timing chip late that night; while preparing the things for the next morning in the tent, I couldn’t find it anymore. I’m pretty sure I accidentally had given it to a single man in the shower truck, thinking it was his (and so thought he and his supporter), but I couldn’t find him anymore. I went to the information tent and tried to explain my situation, further aggravated by the horrible phone connection to the place they told me to call, but eventually I got a replacement chip and all was set for the next day.

The day’s solid work was good enough for the 31st place of the day, letting us advance to 35th in the overall standings. Our partner teams were by now on the 10th and 36th overall places, with the team just next to us struggling with a not yet quite healed broken rib.

Day two, stats (links to result lists)

  • Overall time: 19:41:49, 35/107
  • Day split: 10:30:59, 31/107
  • Run 21 km: 1:39:09 (4:43 min/km), 27/109
  • Bike 82 km: 2:36:26 (31.5 km/h), 35/109
  • Swim 3 km: 1:14:16 (2:28 min/100 m), 69/109
  • Skate 40 km: 1:45:45 (22.7 km/h), 48/109
  • MTB 60 km: 3:15:23 (18.4 km/h), 41/108

In case anybody was wondering about the fluctuating number of total places in the ranking list, these are due to some teams not finishing every single leg, but continuing the race without being eligible for the overall classification.

Gigathlon 2013, day 1

After months of preparations, uncounted kilometres on various wheels, soles and saddles, it was finally here: Gigathlon, the six day multisport adventure and highlight of my 2013 sports year!

Fittingly started with my birthday on the day before the first stage, we drove a car filled to the brim with clothes, equipment and four bikes to Chur, where the first campsite was. We got organised, went through the logistics of the first day and eventually tried to sleep some.

Road bike: 85 km, 1750 m elevation

My first job was to wave goodbye to the single and couple athletes taking off early in the morning to ride from Chur to Lenzerheide:

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So while Andrea was doing this (notice the team jersey):

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I got to ride in a car. We arrived well ahead of the first athletes, but much as I was looking, I couldn’t find any coffee anywhere. We set up transition, and it would be a difficult one for Andrea, trying to get into her wetsuit after a few hours of cycling. Kaspar, member of one of the other two “Triple Couple” teams, arrived first, followed by Marcus, and a few minutes later Andrea, right in the middle of the field.

Transition went without too many problems, and off she went for a refreshing swim.

Swim: 3 km

Heidsee, where the swim took place, often looks like this in Winter:

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Understandably, there was quite a lot of temperature googling in the weeks leading up to the race to see whether the swim might be cancelled or just very cold. It was more than just a dip, after all:

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Race day water temperatures turned out to be no problem, but I still was glad I didn’t have to swim after discovering a few very smelly corners while trying to understand the complex route around the buoys.

After seeing Andrea successfully into the water, we moved to the swim exit, where I would start my run.

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The transition zone got much busier soon, swarming with athletes and spectators. Some relay teams had high profile members such as Olympic triahlon gold medalist Nicola Spirig doing the swim.

Despite the transition zone being very clogged, we managed to lead Andrea to our spot where I could snag the timing chip and ran off.

Run: 12 km, 1400 m elevation

Despite the added time from getting on the wetsuit, Andrea posted a very respectable sub one hour split and handed off to me after about four and a half hours of work.

My job was to run up to Rothorn:

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Maybe more important to the course was the elevation profile:

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That’s more than a 11% grade in average. Now I’m a notoriously slow uphill runner, but for reasons I don’t exactly remember I really wanted to do this leg. Probably for the experience, if not for the great time. And the experience was all there:

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This was one of the few times my trail racing shoes have actually been used in a race. As recommended, I also brought along a hydration pack with a raincoat. The latter was mandatory, but the rest was really overkill and many people were wearing their racing flats. But better safe than sorry, especially on the first of six days!

Almost at the top, faking some running:

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I had a great time, chatting with people at times, saying “see you” when finally leaving chat partners just to have them catch me a few minutes later…

Speaking of time, all three TripleCouple team members had splits just a few minutes apart. I posted a time just shy of 1:49, good enough for the top 25% of the mixed couples.

At the top, the time was stopped for up to one hour to give the runner the opportunity to get back down to the lake, where the transition zone was. I was also to do the next leg, mountain bike, so I was certainly glad to get a break.

Mountain bike: 37 km, 1000 m elevation

The hour passed way too quickly, and before soon, I had to hit the road. The mountain bike course led back to Chur, with a technical donwhill part toward the end and enough bumps before that to accumulate a few meters in elevation difference.

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By now, the course was quite crowded as the relay teams, which had started after us, had caught up with us. As more or less expected, the course was not very technical, but a joy to ride in the conditions.

Now sporting the team jersey, too:

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Shortly after the most technical part, which I survived without any major problems, I experienced a bunch of cramps like never before. The course was undulating in the forest before getting back into the open, and suddenly my right quad cramped. Once per pedal revolution. I’ve had calf cramps on the bike before, but this…? A remedy would have been to unclip the right leg and stretch the quad, but a) I couldn’t figure that out in my oxygen deprived state and b) there were too many short climbs to do that without stopping (or falling from the bike).

Thankfully, after a painful while, the cramps subsided and I could finish without any more discomfort. My time of 2:10 was just about in the middle of the couple field.

I handed off to Andrea for the last part of work for the day.

Inline skating: 18 km, 50 m elevation

The skating course was more or less an out-and-back:

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It was quite windy, so drafting would have been nice, but there is not always somebody around to draft off:

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Inline skating legs are always relatively short in Gigathlon and usually don’t make much of a difference in overall standings. The fastest guy of the day, part of a mixed couple, begged to differ: the former inline world cup participant averaged more than 36 km/h and put more than five minutes into the second fastest couple participant.

Quite apart from that, we were happy with our performance for the first day and looking forward to the next one!

Our TripleCouple partner teams ended up on a fantastic 11th and 31st place.

Day one, stats (links to result lists)

  • Overall time: 9:10:50, 42/108
  • Day split: 9:10:50, 42/108 – no surprise here!
  • Road bike 85 km: 3:25:56 (24.8 km/h), 57/108
  • Swim 3 km: 0:58:05 (1:56/100 m), 73/109
  • Run 12 km: 1:48:50 (9:04/km), 23/109
  • MTB 37 km: 2:10:02 (17.1 km/h), 51/108
  • Skate 18 km: 0:47:57 (22.5 km/h), 70/109

Thurathlon 2013

For the final tune-up one month before Gigathlon, team “Agglo-Dugongs” decided to participate at Thurathlon in the “Couple long mixed” category, which pretty much corresponds to one day at Gigathlon. The distances were two km swimming, 25 km inline skating, 90 km road cycling, 60 km mountain bike and 22 km running. We split it such that I’d swim, skate and do the MTB part.

Swim: 1.0 km

Getting to the swim start was the first adventure: I took the first train from Weinfelden to Lake Constance, and from the train station it was supposed to be just a few minutes, which I could comfortably do on my inline skates. A few other competitors were on the train as well, so we could try and find the start together.

We got lost immediately (special thank you to the person who knew the way and just took another turn behind our backs without telling us), but after a little extra distance, we arrived at the swim start and still had time to spare.

The attentive reader might have spotted a discrepancy between the course description further up and the last title. The weather before the race had not been great and the water was very cold – almost cold enough for the swim to be cancelled (which was my secret hope, of course). It turned out to be too cold to swim the full distance, but not cold enough to cancel, so we had the pleasure of swimming one kilometre in 12.9 °C water.

The “warm-up”, i.e., jumping into the water once before the race started, promised a very, very cold affair. We were lined up and got ready to race:

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I’m the guy with the orange cap (and warm neoprene cap under that) studying his (numb) feet. Moments later, we were sent off:

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And we were gone. It was not as bad as expected, I managed to keep my head under water for exhaling and not hyperventilate (too much).

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I even got into an okay rhythm, and by the time I reached the turnaround buoy, it wasn’t all that horrible anymore.

I got out of the water in just under 23 minutes, “good” enough for ninth place out of ten mixed couples. All long distance athletes started at the same time, though, so the transition zone was still busy.

Just one other mixed couple, the eventual winners, had the swimmer also do the inline skating, but that guy happened to swim a lot faster and must have changed quickly into is skating stuff, as his helper was totally ready for me when I arrived. The team had, nicely enough, agreed to haul my stuff back to Weinfelden and help with my transition.

Inline skating: 25 km

After my looong transition, I took off toward Weinfelden (yellow route):

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The inline skating part was largely uneventful, as the field was already spread thin. I picked up a single athlete who asked for permission to draft me until the end of the skating leg, so at least I had company. (The single athlete went on to finish Gigathlon as a single athlete, too.)

The 25 km took me about 66 minutes, but adding my terribly slow transition, that was the slowest of all mixed couple times. Interestingly, the other guy who did the swim/skate combo had the third fastest skating time (including the transition)…

This being said, despite handing over as the gloriously last of all mixed couples, the day would be long and ten minutes (like the ten minutes the ninth couple had on us) not that much in the grand scheme of things. Plus I got a really friendly thank you from the single athlete I pulled, and that’s worth something, right?

Things started to improve immediately in the shape of the fastest second transition time.

I was now up for a nice, long break of about three hours while others did the hard work:

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A lot of coffee and successful bottle hand-offs (the course was a two-lap layout) later, things already looked much better. We had passed two teams and were closing in on a third. This being said, during race day we had no clue about current standings, as the event encompasses 17 categories and the transition zone is like a beehive all day long.

The road bike course was two laps of the red one:

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My job was now to do two black loops on the mountain bike, and two green loops would be for the run.

Mountain bike: 60 km

The MTB course was not technical at all, it probably could have been done on a cyclocross bike. I was more than happy to use my then still quite new Specialized Epic 29er, but all of that suspension was not required. A lot of gravel paths were followed by one long climb and an even longer descent, and then it was back to gravel paths and roads again. Afterwards, the same all over for a second loop:

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By now, it was impossible to tell if anybody was even in the same race or lapping us or being lapped by us. Although the course was not densely populated, there was a steady stream of people to be passed.

My time for the 60 km was just shy of two hours and twenty minutes; only the guy from the winning team was faster. The field was so spread out by then (a bit more than seven hours into the race), that this improved our position by just one place, but still – moving to the front!

My work was now done, and after a shower all I had to do was eat, drink, wait and chat with people. Like this guy with his awesome Boston Marathon tattoo:

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Not much space left for more!

During the run, Andrea reeled in two more teams, giving us a fifth place finish out of ten couples in just one minute short of nine hours. Not too shabby! And, more importantly, we now knew we’d survive a Gigathlon-like day without any problems, so five more should be possible, right?

Zumiker Lauf 2013 – 11.2 km

To get used to racing for several days, my couple partner for Gigathlon and I had a splendid idea: race Zumiker Lauf on a hilly 11.2 km course on Saturday, then Thurathlon (multisports event with Gigathlon disciplines) as a couple on Sunday.

Zumiker Lauf is part of the ZüriLaufCup series and as such usually sports a strong field; when I did the race in 2011, multiple long distance duathlon World Champ Andy Sutz participated, and he showed up in 2013 as well. (And won.)

The course is a clockwise loop with start and finish on the same stretch of road:

There are almost no flat parts and two major climbs, with the steepest bits in the second one. The best part is definitely after the 8.5 km mark, from where on it is all downhill (except the very end):

It was an extremely warm day, so I was quite sure I wouldn’t be able to beat my time from 2011. However, I did spot my arch enemy in the crowd (the one from Neujahrslauf Dietikon and GP Dübendorf), so the goal was clear: not be slower than him.

The start was as always a very fast business:

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(Pictured: arch enemy! Not naming names.)

The lead group was gone quickly, and I tried to settle into a rhythm and find a few people to hang on to. I often find this hard to do, as people tend to go out too fast and slowly fade for the rest of the race. A cautious start and build-up to a faster pace as I try to practice leads to less people to run with. But more people to hunt down!

Despite the heat, the weather made for a nice scenery:

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I struggled a bit and was consistently slower than in 2011. Worse, my arch enemy had escaped from the very start! I was reeling in people, but not him; he wasn’t even in sight.

The climbs on the second hill nearly killed me and I felt like standing still, but eventually I reached the highest point and tried to unleash a furious finale. It took me almost a kilometre to catch my breath and take advantage of the downhill; the wings came only when I spied a shirt in the colours of our running team ahead, potentially belonging to my arch enemy.

I inched closer and closer, and with about one kilometre to go, I blasted past him, employing the tried and tested “be so much faster that he doesn’t even think of trying to hang on” technique. It’s a great technique, but it bears a lot of risks, such as tripping and falling into the ditch, tripping and falling over the curb, tripping and falling because the legs can’t keep up, spectacularly blowing up, et cetera. I had near accidents demonstrating all four of these options in these last few minutes, but I managed to stay ahead and even put almost 40 seconds into arch enemy. Success!

I placed 25th overall (top 6%) and 7th in my age group (top 8%). Even though I didn’t do enough races of the series to get into the overall ranking in 2013, I like to compare my cup scores, which are based on the age group winner’s time. If there’s an extraordinarily fast guy around, this can skew the whole ranking, but only six races out of twelve are required for the overall ranking, so enough opportunities to improve on a bad result. Despite good age group placing, my 833 points were just about average for me in the last few years for the series – the “fast guy in age group” effect at work.

Points weren’t the goal of that day, though: beating my arch enemy being tired for the race on Sunday was. And that goal was absolutely met, as the “holding back because it’s two days of racing” strategy had gone out the window after a few seconds.

The rest of the day was spent hauling our stuff to Weinfelden, where we were based for Thurathlon on Sunday.

Biennathlon 2013

To get a taste of multisports racing, Biennathlon looked like the perfect race to get readier for Gigathlon. In 2013, the race in its unique inline skate – swim – mountain bike – run format offered relay, couple and single athlete options. This has now (2014) changed, and single athletes compete in a cross triathlon, getting rid of the extremely akward transition from inline skating to swimming. Ever tried putting on a wetsuit when sweaty?

We, however, got to enjoy the “old” format, except that the swim was cancelled due to very cold water in Lake Biel (less than 12 °C). Instead, a second run was scheduled. Good for me!

Parts of the inline course and most of the MTB course had been part of the scouting expedition of project “Triple Couple” two weeks before, so I roughly knew what to expect.

I didn’t know what to expect on the inline course with respect to racing and other people, though. I used to play inline hockey with friends in high school, but that was long ago, and hockey skates are a tiny bit different from speed skates… but at least I was familiar with wheels under my feet.

The mass inline start was self-seeded; I put myself roughly at the front of the slowest third. Once there was room to actually skate, I realised that this had been probably a bit too conservative, but I made okay progress. No drafting, though, which would have been quite nice to have.

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The course was not too difficult with two or three downhill parts where the biggest danger came from swerving fellow racers rather than the course itself, but I managed to avoid them. Some treacherous wet patches were a bit annoying as well.

This is what the course looked like:

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Lots of nice straights, a few tight corners, 14 kilometres overall.

The first transition, as mentioned thankfully not from skating to swimming, went okay, except that I forgot to take off my protective kevlar shorts, which made for a very hot first run.

The run course went along a little canal near the transition zone and then looped back:

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At just 4.7 kilometres, it took me definitely less time than the planned 1.5 kilometre swim would have.

Back in transition, I finally got rid of the kevlar shorts and grabbed my mountain bike. Most unfortunately, my MTB shoes don’t allow for flying mounts, but that’s probably a good thing (for me, not for spectators, that is).

The mountainbike course is the pièce de resistance of the race. So much so that it’s impossible to win without a very strong performance there. Not that I was in contention, but it definitely was the leg where the most time would be spent.

After a short flat part along the lake, the course climbs and climbs and climbs up to the Federal Institute of Sports in Magglingen and is then followed by a quite technical downhill back to Biel:

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When we were on our course familiarisation, it was wet and very slippery. On race day, the conditions were better, and due to heavy rains during the days before the race, the course was adapted and the most tricky donwhil parts skipped. At 24 kilometres and more than 750 metres elevation, it was still challenging.

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I survived almost accident free, except once, when a faster biker announced that he’d pass on my right, I gave him a bit too much space and lay down in the mud to my left. You’re welcome, fast biker.

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That was a pattern in general, by the way: people I passed on the uphill would pass me back on the downhill. It’s incredible how much time a technically skilled biker can gain by not touching the breaks (and not crashing, of course).

The bike took me about 95 minutes, and I was quite happy with that.

The final run was a 12.7 km hilly affair:

Pretty much like the first run leg, but with the added joy of a loop in the not so flat forest.

I could see the fastest single men approaching the finish as I was heading out; other than that, competitors were few and far between.

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It took me a bit less than an hour to finish, and with a grade adjusted pace roughly as fast as my marathon pace, I was content.

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I finished in 3:29:00.6 (.6, that’s right) overall. A few lessons for Gigathlon were learned: try and find a fast group for inline skating, don’t forget to take off the hot kevlar shorts, go and train more technical downhills, don’t wear these biking socks with these running shoes.

One more brick in the Gigathlon wall! One month to go.